Wednesday, July 14, 2010
New from romance writer Sophie Jordan comes this young adult paranormal romance. Set in modern day America, Jacidina realizes that she is something special to her pack of dragons, being the first fire breather in over 300 years. But an unauthorized flying trip puts her very life in jeopardy. Her mother, not wanting to risk her daughter takes Jacinda and her twin sister Tamera far from the pack. In the desert Jacinda feels like she is going to die until she meets, or meets again Will. Will is from a hunter family, who's only purpose is to hunt down dragons. Jacinda is torn between her attraction to Will, and how he keeps her dragon side alive and letting her dragon die as her mother and sister would like and would keep them all safe.
Argh. This book is part of a series and I must say that book one was very unsatisfying. There was so much build up and then nothing happened. I was hoping for so many more answers out of this first book only to be disappointed. I can appreciate wanting to write a series and giving the reader sufficient back story and character development to make the story interesting but there was little story. It was all conversation and feelings with little to no action. And then when you hoped something would happen the book ends. I also felt that the main character, Jacinda was a bit too tempestuous for my tastes. Now, I may just be prejudice against the author because she normally writes romance novels, but I detected a bit of the overly selfish and obtuse in her heroine that is just unrealistic.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
"Is it a meatball? A basketball? A pearl? As the round hole through the pages of this book grows larger, readers will come closer and closer to guessing the identity of the object that's round like a ball, hot and cold, every color, always moving, and home to us all."
I like the way this book is laid out but at the end it just seemed at bit odd. The entire book is trying to figure what this round object is, once we know that the object is the earth the last line is "everybody celebrated." It just didn't seem to make sense with the rest of the story. There are also some tips about how to take care of the earth. I think if this book was supposed to be about caring for the earth there might have been a better story to write than a guessing game. The repetitive nature of the book in always starting the clues with "it is round like a ball" does get on your nerves by the end. Usually I am a big fan of repetition in children's books but this one is too much. Overall I was not that impressed. Not a bad book but I would not go out of your way to read it either.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Charlie and his sister Lola are going to the library to get Lola's favorite book. But when they get to the library they cannot find the book anywhere. Lola is very upset that someone took her book. Charlies tries to tell Lola about other books in the library and eventually after asking a lot of questions about what she likes to read he thinks he found a good choice. Lola is skeptical that she will like the book but agrees to give it a try. Lola now has a new favorite book.
I picked up this book because it was about books and going to the library. I sometimes forget that you do have to teach children about going to the library and sharing the books, even their favorite ones. I thought the story was very true to real life and how kids think but it is still very funny. Charlie is a kind big brother to Lola and I think kids will relate to either character. The illustrations are a bit odd. The author has a very definite style and point of view. I did like how the characters are portrayed but I found the picture collage background to be disjointed. However, I can see how this style would be very popular with some readers. A great book to read in nursery school or before a trip to the library to remind young readers about the right way to act in a library. I highly recommend, and there are many more Charlie and Lola stories if your young reader enjoys these characters.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
To be honest this is a book I picked up for the cover. It looked so funny with the little suction tube way up in the shark's mouth, I had to read it. On every two page spread we read something we should never do and an illustration of how that action can go wrong. On the last page we find out something that we always should do. I think my favorite is "Never go to the bank with a raccoon" because the raccoon's face looks shocked and flabbergasted that everyone in the bank thinks he is trying to rob it.
I think this book is funny buy by the end the negative statements on every page starting with "Never" got to me. I would have liked more "Always" statements mixed in. But that is just me. The book itself is, as I said, very funny and I think kids will get a kick out of some of the situations. All of the situations are very easy for a child to relate to, so I am sure they will see the humor in the silliness of the statements. The illustrations are great as well with a lot of attention paid to facial expressions. And it is the facial expressions that caused me to giggle on more than one occasion. Because there is only one sentence on the page it is a very fast read but if you take the time to look for all the details the illustrator included it could take you awhile to finish the book. I recommend for boys or girls ages 3-5.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
There was an old woman who lived high in the mountains for as long as anyone could remember making quilts. Her quilts were so lovely that the rich would come from all over the world to buy one. But the old woman always responded that her quilts were not for sale, they were for the poor and needy and she would not sell one for any price. In the kingdom where she lived there was a greedy king who demanded presents at least four times a year from every person in the land. When he heard about the old woman he thought that he was still unhappy because he did not have one of her quilts, that is the gift that would make him happy at last. He demanded the old woman give him a quilt. She tells him that when he gives away all his possessions she will make him a quilt, one square for each present he gives away. King is distressed, he cannot imagine giving away his possessions, so he has the woman imprisoned. Later the king thinks better of it and does give away a single marble. The little boy he gave the marble to is so happy that the king decides to try and give something else away. After that the king learns to love to bring joy to others by giving gifts and he travels the world giving away his possessions. The old woman keeps her promise and after many years when the king returns home poor, but happy, she gives him his quilt which is more beautiful than any of the others.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I did judge it by the cover and thought that it was not going to be very good, but it was a great read. I read this online at the Children's Library and was a bit sad that I could not have the actual book in front of me to see the illustrations in all their glory but even on the computer screen you still get a lot from them. There is so much happening on every page that I would recommend that you not try to read this to a group larger than two people because it would be very difficult for everyone to see the pages and the little details the illustrator includes. The writing is very well done and before you know it you are sucked into this story. It is a bit longer than most picture books so I would recommend this for an older audience of four to seven year-olds. The message of this story is 'it is better to give than to receive' but it is told in such a way that I think children will respond to it and be able to grasp that message at whatever age. There is a little bit of magic in the book as well which adds to the storytelling and wonder of the quilts that the old woman creates. I think that boys or girls will really like this story and the characters of the old woman and the king. The old woman being a grandmother figure that everyone can relate to and love, and the king being a spoiled person who learns to think of others.
There is a website devoted to this series, www.quiltmakersgift.com, with some online resources for quilters and additional information about the book. I would love to learn to quilt, and it is on my list of things to do but I am a crocheter and have a hard time abandoning my yarn. Plus a sewing machine seems to be required and I do not have the space for that in my little apartment.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Meggy is sent to live with her father in London, she has never seen or even heard of her father spoken of so it was a surprise when she was summoned. Meggy's only friend is a goose named Louise. Meggy attributes this to the fact that she and Louise are both crippled and therefore considered useless or ever worse, cursed by the devil. When Meggy arrives in London she discovers two things, one that her father is completely devoted to his work of alchemy (trying to discover how to transform metal into gold) and that he does not care about her or anyone else. Meggy is forced to try and find her way around London alone and make her own way in the world. Along the way much to her surprise she makes friends, and finds the strength within herself to make her own transformation.
I was very excited to read this book because I am a big fan of Karen Cushman. Anyone who writes about Elizabethan England or the Middle Ages is alright by me. With that said though I was not blown away by this book. I liked it but it is not something I would want to read again. The story was well written and I like the message of taking responsibility for your own life and making things happen. But the character of Meggy was not that interesting to me. Meggy has a bad temper and feels worry for herself for being crippled. She is very unhappy to be in London and without her grandmother, who passed away. I think the more interesting story might have been in the small town Meggy was from with her grandmother, the grandmother seems like a much more interesting character. For that matter so does her mother, who we also never meet, and seems to be a hard but beautiful woman who runs the local alehouse. The character of Meggy's father is very one dimensional. He is focused on his work and needs to be funded for it to continue so he will do some questionable things. That is all he is, there is nothing more, and that was a bit disappointing. However, there are some great passages with colorful descriptions of London during the Elizabethan era and a bit of history cleverly thrown in that kids will read and soak up without realizing that they are learning. The author also gives some more information about the time period and alchemy in the back of the book along with other non-fiction to read if you wanted to know more.
I would say to start with some of Cushman's other work if you are new to this author, if you love that then read this one. If you are already a fan you will enjoy a new work but this is not a great introduction to what this author can write. Below is a video of the author talking about her book.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
These are a few of my observations about seeing the movie Eclipse, an odd post for a book blog I know but, it was a very funny experience.
I went to go see this movie last night at 6:30 thinking I would have to brave a theater full of screaming tweens and teens. There were certainly a lot of adolescents having a hard time controlling themselves whenever Jacob walked on the screen without his shirt on (which was most of the time he was in the movie) but there were an equal number of young women in their 20's and 30's. As it turns out the older crowd was worse than the youngsters. Most of the cheering and yelling things like 'good Lord' and 'mmm-hmmm' at the screen came from the 20 and 30 year-olds. One woman actually got up out of her seat and yelled 'yes!' at the top of her lungs when Bella and Jacob kissed. I must say this was one of the most amusing experiences of my life.
When I read the books I remember having a running commentary in my head similar to the one that was going on in the theater. Basically I questioned what was wrong with Bella that she could not make up her mind between two completely different 'men' and shocked by her antics with both of them. It seemed to me that most of my fellow viewers had not read the books though so, they were completely surprised by how the story unfolds. It was so fun to watch and listen to these people react to the plot of Eclipse because that is something you do not generally have while reading. In book clubs you can talk about it later but it is not the same thing as being with a large group while they experience a story for the first time. Knowing what was coming next it was fun to anticipate the reaction of the audience and then get to participate in their shock, surprise, joy, and frustration.
In addition to the commentary and shouting there was a lot, and I mean a lot, of giggling. That is not something I experienced while reading the book. I remember rolling my eyes a fair amount at some of the cheesier parts but to see them acted out on the big screen brought on giggles from everyone. With the possible exception of the two men that were taken to see this movie, they did not giggle but groaned very loudly, which unfortunately for them only made the giggling worse.
What does this have to do with the book or the movie as a whole? I am not entirely sure. I can say though, that the movie does follow capture the essence of the book and that the back story scenes are wonderful. I was disappointed that the character of Jacob doesn't get more depth in the movie but then again he must have spent all his time in the gym to look like he did for his time on camera. Overall if you like the books or the other two movies you will enjoy this movie, but go prepared for all kinds of audience participation.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
To begin, let me say that this book is not intended for a young adult audience, not to say that they would not enjoy it, but it was not written with young adult readers in mind. I am reviewing it because I mistakenly thought the first book in this series Soulless, was a YA and now I am hooked on the series.
Changeless begins right where Soulless left off with Alexia being married to Lord Maccon. All of the regiments have been recalled to England in order to be redeployed so many of the Woosley pack on actually camped on Alexia's front lawn. There is a strange phenomnon going on in London and throughout the countryside, supernaturals are losing their powers and returning to their mortal state. This throws all of London into chaos for a few days but then inexplicably their powers are restored. Lord Maccon goes to Scotland to investigate and Alexia follows. On her journey to Scotland a few attempts are made on Alexia's life, but she survives being no worse for her experience. After a rude welcome to her husband's ancestral home in Scotland Alexia tries to discover the source of what is causing this werewolf pack to lost their supernatural abilities. She succeeds, but in the end it is not appreciated.
I did like this book, I love the characters that Carriger created, however the ending to this book made me so mad I almost threw it across the room. I was reading last night alone in my apartment, and I got to the end of the book and literally started to yell at it. Like the author could here me and come and fix how unhappy I was, it was so ridiculous. My only defense is that I was completely absorbed into the world that Alexia lives in and to have the book end the way it did made me mad, to say the very least. It is a brilliant ending though because now I have to read the next book Blameless but it is not out until October, so again I am miffed that I have to wait four months to find out what happens.
Now, the main reason I would be hesitant to recommend this to a young adult reader is that there is a lot of sex in this book, or more accurately a lot of foreplay and then it is implied or stated in one sentence that sex occurred. The sex is between a married couple but I am not sure how I feel about recommending a book to a teen where every twenty pages or so the clothes of the main character are being removed. The scenes are not gratuitous and nothing like you would read in a romance novel, much more tame than that, but again, teens think about sex enough as it is without having to read about a Victorian heroine 'getting it on' all the time.
If a little bit of steamy reading is O.K. for you, I highly recommend this book. I loved it. I could not read it fast enough, and it when it was over I was sad that I had read it so fast. I want to read it again just because I like the characters and how they interact with each other and this Victorian supernatural world so much. Carriger does a great job of writing a witty and smart woman in the Victorian era. Alexia has so much to offer the reader in terms of layers of personality and depth that although you think you can predict where the story is going next there is always a twist that you did not see coming that fits perfectly into the storyline. And that happens quite a few times. As in the first book there is an equal amount of science mixed in with the paranormal that provides for such a fun juxtaposition of ideals and social conventions. I would recommend reading the first book before you start this one as this book builds on a lot of the information we learn in Soulless. Overall, a fun and witty read with a strong heroine that is not afraid to take charge and be in command.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sara Crew and her father are very close, neither of them like the idea of Sara going to boarding school but it is a social convention that must be followed. A very intelligent, imaginative, and odd child Sara almost instantly makes an enemy of the headmistress Miss Minchin. Sara's father instructs the headmistress that Sara is to have every luxury and comfort, and Miss Minchin follows his request because of his fabulous wealth. On the day of Sara's eleventh birthday news comes that her father is dead and that his fortune is lost. Far from being compassionate Miss Minchin decides to treat Sara like a servant or worse. For three long years Sara lives in the attic of her school and tries to imagine away hunger, cold, and fatigue. Little things start to change in Sara's attic and she believes it is a magician who is helping her. Finally it is revealed that her fortune was not lost and that the "magician" who had been helping her was a close friend of her father's that had been searching for her in vain for many years.
This was my favorite book when I was in fifth grade. I must have read it ten times one summer. I would finish it and then start it over again immediately because I loved it so much. I think what I liked about it then was that Sara was intelligent and imaginative. The book does mention that she is pretty but in an odd way and it was her intelligence and imagination that were her better qualities. I liked having a main character that was smart. I also loved all the wonder that was in the book. Even when things were terrible for Sara she still tried to make them better by telling stories or even just helping others. There is something magical in the stories Sara tells herself and others.
The story is masterfully told and it should be no surprise that I also loved A Secret Garden by Burnett. I was pleased to find that there are many free versions of this book online to either download or read on your computer screen as well as a few free audio versions of the book. In addition to that you can watch most of 1995 movie on YouTube in about eight installments. I did like both the 1939 and 1995 movie although they both took some liberties with the story I think they did capture the essence of the novel. I highly recommend this classic to girls ages 7-12.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The instant Despereaux was born everyone knew that he was different. Even for a mouse he was too small and his ears were too big. But Despereaux does not mind being different, he is looking for adventure when the other mice simply cower and run away. In looking for adventure Despereaux meets the Princess Pea and decides that he wants to devote his life to her service. It is because of Despereaux that an evil plot by a rat will be foiled and that soup will once again be eaten in the kingdom.
The movie version of The Tale of Despereaux like all adaptations of books takes some license with the story. And unfortunately like most movie versions I do not think it was as good as the book. I did enjoy the movie version though despite the changes to the story. The movie version is at the same time lighter and darker than the book. In the movie version our villain Roscuro is not the true villain and finds redemption and happiness at the end. While in the book Roscuro is given forgiveness but his heart was too crooked to ever really be happy. The real villain in the movie is Botticelli, and he gets killed at the end. While in the book nothing happens to Botticelli, he stays in the dungeon with the other rats for the rest of his life.
What I liked about the book and movie version is Despereaux's desire to be a knight and to live with honor. It is always fun to read a children's book with a true hero figure, no matter how unlikely that figure may be. Despereaux is everything a hero should be, honest, brave, and courageous, even though he is a mouse. I like that DiCamillo gave children a different hero, to let them know that you do not have to be big and strong to do the right thing. I also love children's books where the hero is on a quest or adventure that has some danger in it. The reader is worried quite a few times for Despereaux's safety and it only makes him that much more likable when he is victorious in overcoming his obstacles. I highly recommend this book for boys or girls ages 8-12. This could also be a great read aloud for a younger audience.
I would read the book first and then see the movie if you could, I find that it is more fun to have read the book before I see the movie version. Are there any strong opinions you have about book or movie first?
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Miffy learns from Father and Mother Bun that there is going to be a new baby bun soon. Miffy is very happy and decides to make some presents for her new baby brother or sister. Very soon baby bun is born. Miffy is very quiet because she did not realize the baby would be so small. Miffy is happy when she is able to hold baby bun and eat cake to celebrate with her class at school.
Miffy is a great series that was started back in the 50's. The colors for Miffy are very unique and the creator actually invented a 5-tone color for Miffy. The pages are very minimalist with few extras. This story is told in rhyme and is intended for children ages 2-4. I find reviews of books that are intended for such a young audience difficult for me because it is so far removed the from elementary school world that I know about. But, I can say that this book had a good story about welcoming a new sibling, and that the story is told mostly through the written word and not by the illustrations. I like how simple these books are for this age group because at that age (2-4) attention spans are very short and this will keep them interested in the entire story.
The website for Miffy is fantastic. At the top are resources for parents and at the bottom are icons for kids. You can have a book read to you, watch videos, play games, and color. I really enjoyed my time in the kids section of the Miffy website. It was engaging and the directions for how to use each icon are read to you, so if your little one is on the computer they can use the site with little assistance. I think it is wonderful to have a devoted website to series like Miffy so that kids can get excited about continuing to interact with the characters after the story is over. And this website is free to use so they can play as many games as they want or color as much as they can.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Told in rhyme this book tells the story of a very sad fish, the pout pout fish. All of his friends wish that he would not be so gloomy but the pout pout fish is convinced that he is destined to be sad and grumpy because his mouth forms a pout. One day a new fish swims right up to the pout pout fish and kisses him. The pout pout fish is stunned but after a moment he realizes that he is not a pout pout fish but a kiss kiss fish. From then on he spreads happiness wherever he goes.
I am torn about what to think about this book. I like the rhyming pattern that the book follows and the portions that are repeated. Both of those things are great for children who are learning to read. I also like the illustrations. The pout pout fish is so funny and so reminiscent of a child who is just convinced that he or she is having a bad day. What I do not like is that at the end of the story the pout pout fish becomes a kiss kiss fish. I personally think that is funny and great but having been a teacher I think this is going to cause problems.
I was working in a school once where a kindergarten student was possibly going to be disciplined for sexual harassment for kissing another kindergarten student on the cheek. I thought then and still do now, that that was ridiculous. Yes, we should teach kids to not go around just kissing everyone but sexual harassment, seriously, it was just out of control what these parents will do. So my main concern is that if you have a book like this that is very innocent, and kids that are innocent, in a school where nothing can be innocent anymore you are going to have a problem. I would hate to have some little five year-old think that a good way to make his or her friends happy would be to go up to them on the playground and give them a kiss because you don't know how that will be taken in today's world. I think it is sad but that is where we are at.
Other than that though I did like the book. I thought it was cute and age appropriate. The illustrations of the sea life are a bit cartoon like but you can still tell what every animal is supposed to be, and that is always good in a book about animals. I do recommend for children ages 3-5 but be sure to have the talk with your kids about not just kissing people without their permission.
Friday, June 18, 2010
New from Sourcebooks in May this paranormal, historical, young adult romance is sure to please. Jennie Lovell lost her parents when she and her twin brother were only twelve, forcing them to live with their Uncle Henry, Aunt Clara and their two sons Will and Quinn. Jennie and Toby instantly bond with Will and after a few years Jennie and Will are engaged. But then the Civil War comes and her brother and Will are both killed in the war. Jennie's aunt does not care for her and she is left with nothing. But strange things start occurring in the house after Quinn returns home. Jennie feels that she is haunted by something or someone. With a spiritualist photographer to guide her Jennie tries to free herself from this demon this is tormenting her, only to find the demon may not what it seems.
This is one of the books I picked up at BEA. I saw that there was an author signing and decided to wait in the very long line to get a signed copy. It was well worth it. The two authors were were lovely and very passionate about this story and the characters they created. I am so glad that I met them before I read the book, it makes me like it that much more now. I must say that from the first line I was pulled in, "A ghost will find its way home" is a strong way to start any story. Added to that first line is so much artwork throughout the book it is staggering. At the beginning of every chapter is something else from "Jennie's scrapbook", from letters to pictures and newspaper clippings you really feel immersed in this world.
The story moves along a bit slowly at first, giving you small hints and details while you watch Jennie go unloved and forgotten. But after the family visits the photographer the story moves very quickly. The story gets to be more creepy then scary and you, the reader, are always questioning the truth of what is going on. By the last 40 pages or so you are so engrossed in this book that nothing will distract you. I literally had my mouth open in shock and horror for at least 25 of the last 40 pages, making me look quite ridiculous but very entertained. The end is great and I am glad the authors added an Epilogue or I would have been very angry to not have the characters a bit more settled.
The book's website is wonderful and has a lot of interesting extras for you to read through and play with. Below is a video about how the authors came up with the story, it is interesting to hear their creative process. In the end I highly recommend for girls ages 13-adult.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
My next question is, are other images of weapons allowed? I realize that guns are more prevalent in society than bows and arrows or even knives but they can still be used as a deadly weapon. And does intent with the weapon matter? If a fourth grader is learning about the Civil or Revolutionary War are they not allowed to look at photographs or paintings that depict soldiers or civilians with guns? One assignment I remember getting throughout elementary school was to come up with my own illustration for a chapter in a book we were reading as a class. If that book had guns in it for whatever reason would I not be allowed to illustrate that?
I understand the need to teach children that guns are not toys and not something to be taken lightly or used, but does removing all images of guns from school accomplish that goal? I also realize that every school is different and has come up with their own set of rules for this sort of issue. I am curious what you think about this rule of no images of guns in schools, and if you know similar rules in your area.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma's door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, ``May I come in?''
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
``He's going to eat me up!'' she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, ``That's not enough!
I haven't yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!''
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
``I've got to have a second helping!''
Then added with a frightful leer,
``I'm therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.''
He quickly put on Grandma's clothes,
(Of course he hadn't eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma's chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
``What great big ears you have, Grandma.''
``All the better to hear you with,'' the Wolf replied.
``What great big eyes you have, Grandma.''
said Little Red Riding Hood.
``All the better to see you with,'' the Wolf replied.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ``But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.''
``That's wrong!'' cried Wolf. ``Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I'm going to eat you anyway.''
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ``Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.''
The Children's Poetry Archive has the audio of Roald Dahl reading this poem, it is wonderful to be able to hear his voice and inflection as you read along. If your young readers enjoy poetry and rhyme this is a great free resource to use.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This is the real story of the house that Jack built. A twist on the classic poem "This is the House that Jack Built" by Mother Goose we read how the house was built and get to see who actually did the work. With rhyme and repetitive verses we learn that Max, Jack's very resourceful dog, actually built the house.
This book is very cute. I am a dog lover, so anything with cute cartoon dogs has mostly won me over. The fact that all the construction work is done by dogs is just too adorable to not like. Aside from being cute the illustrations are very well done and convey a lot of the story in their detail. The book, like the poem, is very repetitive and it continues to build on itself until the end. The repetition is great for new readers and will help them as they start to read on their own. The rhyming pattern is also good for new readers as it will help them to anticipate words and help them sound out words they do not know. The story itself takes the reader through the various construction phases of building the house. I think that kids will like the ending where Jack gets taken away and Max lives in the house, Jack's expression is great. Overall this is a very good book for children who are starting to read or for younger children who enjoy dogs, construction, or rhyme.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Peter Augustus Duchene lives in the city of Baltese with his guardian Vilna Lutz. One day while in the market Peter sees a fortuneteller's tent and has to go in and ask her one question, if his sister is alive how does he find her. The fortuneteller's answer fills Peter with equal amount of hope and despair. His sister is alive and he must follow the elephant to find her. There had never been an elephant in Baltese, so how could he follow it to his sister? But later that week a magician, meaning only to summon some lilies inadvertently summons an elephant through the theater roof right on top of a noblewoman. Peter is filled with hope that he might find his sister and set things right.
Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of Kate DiCamillo, so forgive me if this review gets to be a bit gushy from time to time. Needless to say I loved this book. It was so sweet and so filled with the hope that only children have, I was completely taken in and held by this wonderful character of Peter. The book is actually very short although when you pick it up it does not seem to be, the pages are smaller than most books and it has wide margins so it will be a quick read. The chapters are not very long which is perfect for seven to eight year-olds reading this book. We meet many different characters throughout the story that don't always seem to fit together but in the end most of their stories are intertwined. Peter though is why you want to read on to find out what will happen. DiCamillo puts all the wonder and hopefulness of childhood into this character. He is good and honest but also caring, he is the perfect child without being unlikeable. I think what I appreciated most in this story was the hopefulness to see things made right and that the world could be changed to be a better place. It was refreshing to read something that had that kind of blatant optimism. I highly recommend for girls or boys ages seven to nine.
Author Interview and Author Reading
Friday, June 11, 2010
Coming out September 14th from Little Brown, this story is about Jacob Reckless and his brother Will. Jacob misses his father, he knows he is not supposed to go into his father's study but he doesn't understand why his father left him and his brother. In the study Jacob finds a mirror and when he touches it he is taken to another world. Many years later Jacob's younger brother Will is on a trip with him in this other world and Will gets hurt very badly. It is up to Jacob to try and save his brother. But in this world of magic there is danger at every turn and nothing comes without a price.
The tagline for this book is "If you're looking for happily ever after you've come to the wrong place" and nothing could be more true. I read this book over the course of a week and would get depressed and sad after every reading. To the point where my husband could not wait for me to finish so I would stop being in a bad mood. I think what upset me most was the lack of hope in the story. There is not real good or bad guy, no noble knight, no optimistic and honest young hero. In addition to that there is a sense that this other world of magic is slowly being destroyed by the inventions from our world. You get the sense that this is the end of an era, that magic will soon no longer exist in this world and that is a sad thing. Lastly there is no great love. There is the love of the two brothers but it is given begrudgingly and there is no romantic love story to fill that void.
The story is well written but much of it is told through a person's thoughts or intentions which just adds to the overall depressing feel of the book because so much between the characters is left unsaid. We are given a little background information about Jacob and Will but then we are thrust into the story with little more than their names. It takes awhile to get oriented in the story and figure out who we are supposed to be pulling for as the tale unfolds. There is a lot of adventure and fighting, and the fight scenes are very good but it felt like there was something missing. In the end I think that children will like this book. There is adventure and none of the mushy love stuff. I can appreciate the great story telling and that there is so much tension throughout the entire book that you just want to read it in one sitting so you can know how it ends. But it is true, there is no happily ever after, so beware if you pick it up that the ending will not give you a warm fuzzy feeling.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Pinkalicious and her mother and brother make cupcakes one rainy day. She loves them and the color pink so much that the next day she has turned pink. Her parents take her to the doctor and the doctor says she has Pinkititis, the only way to cure it is to eat a lot of green things and nothing else that is pink. Pinkalicious does not like that idea and sneaks another pink cupcake, but the next morning she has turned from pink to red. Pinkalicious is very upset and eats all the green food she can. Soon she is back to her normal color.
Purplicious and Goldilicious follow Pinkalicious through her other adventures at school and with her imaginary unicorn Goldie. She does not turn colors again but starts to learn to like some new colors in addition to pink.
I liked Pinkalicious, I thought it was a bit silly but loving the color pink myself I can see how fun this would be for little girls. Purplicious and Goldilicious lost me though. I didn't really see the same carefree story telling in either of those books. Not that they were bad or poorly written but the main character of Pinkalicious without outrageous pink things going on just doesn't feel as whimsical or fun. I do like the illustrations in all three books. They seem to be a combination of drawings, photographs, and collages. It has a very distinctive feel to them that is all Pinkalicious.
In looking for other interesting items about these books I found that there is a Pinkalicious show in New York and more merchandise than you can shake a stick at. I now understand why the books are so popular. If you can get a Pinkalicious doll, sticker set, coloring book, pajama set, and cupcakes it is hard not to sell a few books as well. I would probably have wanted all of that as a child so I can't really fault the marketing department for making the product tie-ins. Many little girls want to feel like a princess and dress up and pink for some reason seems to embody all of that.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
For the next month (until July 5th at midnight) you can read, for free, the complete novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Click the title or cover to go to the site and have fun reading.
"Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse , and the newborn vampire world she inhabits. In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion."
I am very excited to start reading this novella. I loved the Twilight series and it is always sad when a story you love ends. I am a bit nervous though about reading this from Bree's perspective. In Eclipse you hate the newborn army so I am not sure how Meyer is going to make us care enough about Bree to make her story interesting. Either way though this should be a fun read and it is very wallet friendly. Also very timely with Eclipse the movie coming out at the end of June.
If you get a chance to start reading the book on the website let me know how you find the reading experience. I like reading on my Kindle but am not a huge fan of reading books off a computer screen. I will do it though when no other option presents itself. (I once read Phantom of the Opera on my computer at a temp job where I was answering phones, I got one call a day for four days, needless to say I needed a distraction.)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Use your fork."
God gave us voices--Ma says, "Don't scream."
Ma says eat broccoli, cereal and carrots.
But God gave us tasteys for maple ice cream.
God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Use your hanky."
God gave us puddles--Ma says, "Don't splash."
Ma says, "Be quiet, your father is sleeping."
But God gave us garbage can covers to crash.
God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Put your gloves on."
God gave us raindrops--Ma says, "Don't get wet."
Ma says be careful, and don't get too near to
Thoses strange lovely dogs that God gave us to pet.
God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Go wash 'em."
But God gave us coal bins and nice dirty bodies.
And I ain't too smart, but there's one thing for certain--
Either Ma's wrong or else God is.
Like many children Shel Silverstein was my favorite poet when I was growing up. My copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends is literally falling apart from being read so many times. This poem was one of my favorites from that book. I remember reading it and getting to the end and thinking, 'I can't let my parents read this one, they will not think it is funny and I will get in trouble for thinking it is funny.' It turns out all my fears were unjustified and my parents did see the humor in the poem. I loved the way Shel wrote but I was not a fan of his illustrations, I always thought they looked too dirty, too unfinished. It was the first time as a child I was confronted with a piece of art that was not perfectly polished and pretty. I didn't really know what to do with it and for awhile was confused as to why he would have these "ugly" drawings in his books next to the great poems. When I got a little older I started to understand how much his drawings were apart of the book and the presentation of the poems and I learned to love them.
Do you remember your favorite poet or poem from growing up? I would love to know what you liked.
Friday, June 4, 2010
There is a bear who sees something in a tree, but he needs something or someone to help him to reach whatever it is that he sees. He starts getting animals to help him by standing on each others shoulders. The only text on the page though is the name of the animal and its backside, "moose caboose, rhinoceros rump, hound dog heinie" and so on. In the end they are all reaching for some honey but beware of the "bumble bee bum."
I read this book and didn't realize that the author was Michael Ian Black, for those of you who don't know he is a stand up comedian and actor. I told this to my husband and all of a sudden he is a bit interested in this blog post. Then I found the video below, of Michael reading his book and now I can't write the blog post because we are watching the video. At first I thought the book to be too simple and too silly, it is really just a list of backsides. After watching the video with my husband and seeing him double over with laughter I think I was thinking about this book too much as a teacher and not enjoying the humor in a good butt rhyme. I think three to six year-olds will giggle with glee at all the silly names for each of the rear ends. In addition to the silliness of the writing the expressions the animals make as they try to climb on top of one another are very funny too. I would avoid this book at bedtime though as you might inspire a fit of giggles that will make sleeping an impossibility.
Now there is always some debate in the publishing community over books that go for the "potty humor", are these books good for children? Should we be encouraging kids to laugh at butts? I am curious to know what you think, is it ok to read books that have a bit of the potty humor in them?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
While wandering through the Children's Pavilion at BEA (Book Expo America) last week I stopped at Hinkler Books' Booth. They had a lot of educational books and some interesting kits. I was looking at a spinning display, when on the top I saw a Voodoo Kit. I am assuming this was for kids and I must say I was very taken aback. Voodoo for kids, really? I mean I am all for a healthy expression of frustration or anger but teaching children to poke pins into a little doll while pretending that is a friend or other child that upset them does not seem like a good idea. I went to Hinkler's website and did not find the product. I am not sure if that means they were just testing it out at the show or if it is too new to be on their website. The image to the left is one that I found online that looked similar to the kit I saw but not the exact one.
In doing a quick Google search though it appears you can buy voodoo kits with instructional books from a few reputable publishers, most notable Macmillan and Running Press. I am surprised but, at least those kits are marketed to adults. I think I am still hung up on the idea of marketing something like that to children. I realize that kids go through a morbid phase somewhere between 5-13 but giving them a voodoo kit seems unnecessary. Not to mention giving any boy under the age of 12 a sharp object just seems like a bad idea. I feel like kids are so impressionable that we should be teaching them to forgive and let go of things not to try and hurt people that upset them. Doesn't it seem like giving children a voodoo kit is just encouraging them to hold grudges and is teaching them that they have the right to decide how someone else should be punished for a mistake?
I obviously think this is a bad idea but I would love to hear from you what you think about voodoo kits for kids and if you have seen any available.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A small blue bird and a little brown bunny meet one spring and become friends. They play in the forest all spring, summer, and fall. But then the blue bird must fly south. The bunny misses her friend but when spring returns so does the blue bird and they are happy to be together again.
This is a very sweet story about friendship. But the real reason to pick up this book is for the illustrations. They are beautiful. The collages are made using ephemera, such as catalogues, old books, receipts, ticket stubs, and letters. I would love to see the original pages because you can see where the edges overlap in the collage and you just want to feel that texture rather than the flat, smooth page. This is a good read aloud for a classroom or at bedtime because there are only a few words on each page making it easy to hold the book open and read. The color choices for the illustrations are very warm and fit each season (spring time is filled with yellow and green). This is a good book to start teaching colors as well because there is not too much action on each page which makes it easier for young children to identify what is what. I highly recommend and if you want to take a look at the book before you buy it or pick it up from the library use the browse inside below to get a feel for the book.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
These are the top ten books I am excited about that I either picked up at BEA or are coming out this summer.
1. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher coming out in December from Penguin. This is the sequel to Incarceron, for ages 12 and up. I will be giving away a copy this summer, contest details to come soon.
2. Reckless by Cornelia Funke publishes in September from Little Brown and is for children ages 10 and up (middle grade). It looks amazing and was well worth the hour wait to have my copy signed by the author.
3. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi publishes at the end of September from Simon & Schuster and is for children ages 10 and up (middle grade). From the author of the Spiderwick Chronicles this promises to entertain.
4. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater is available in July! The sequel to Shiver this YA paranormal romance will hopefully answer a lot of questions I was left with after devouring Shiver.
5. Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink book two in the Prophecy of the Sisters Series coming in August. Another YA paranormal with a little romance thrown in. Very excited to know what is going to happen with Alice and Lia.
6. Torment by Lauren Kate coming in September this is the second book in the Fallen Series, YA paranormal with angels. I am definitely team Daniel!
7. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreud the sequel to Rampant (which I need to read ASAP) comes out in late September from Harper Teen. I am intrigued by the idea of a unicorn hunter and Rampant has gotten great reviews as a YA paranormal.
8. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto published in September and is a YA dealing with angels. Beware though this is book one in a trilogy that is scheduled to be finished in late 2012. I honestly picked this one up for the cover it is so stunning, I am excited to read and see if the story can match it.
9. Firelight by Sophie Jordan publishing in early September from Harper Teen this is Ms. Jordan's first YA novel. Unlike her historical romances (I am reading In Scandal They Wed now, and it is very good) this will be a paranormal tale.
10. The Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee is the sequel to The Agency: A Spy in The House from Candlewick Press publishes in August. This book is for children ages 12 and up and I am excited to read about this world set in Victorian England, where there is a all-female detective unit protecting Queen and country.
Friday, May 28, 2010
I will tell you more about BEA in the coming week, it was a lot of fun and I met a lot of great authors that I think you will enjoy reading. Plus a few others that I just admire and shamelessly wanted to autograph a book just for me, like Tim Gunn for example. I am really excited to share these new books with you so keep reading!
Monday, May 17, 2010
Book one of a five part series, Percy Jackson is not your typical twelve year-old. The book begins with a warning from Percy and then he tells the reader his tale of the past year and more specifically the summer after 6th grade. Percy discovers that he is half god, the son of Poseidon and that his uncle Zeus thinks he stole his thunder bolt. Wanting to clear his name Percy takes on a quest to recover the stolen lightning bolt to prove that he was not the one responsible and to avoid a war of the gods. With the help of Athena's daughter Annabeth, and a satyr named Grover Percy heads west to the underworld to confront Hades and clear his name.
I realize I am coming late to the party on this book but that didn't stop me from loving it. I was very impressed with how Rick Riordan mixed our world with that of the ancient Greek gods. The idea that there are still half human half gods running around fighting monsters is very fun and perfect for the setting of this book. I also liked that Riordan didn't rely too heavily on magic. Percy is just discovering that he is half god and that he might have powers. Using or controlling those powers was very difficult to achieve. It was interesting the characteristics that Percy warns the reader of in the beginning. They are common for some children but they also could be a sign of something more. I thought it was great to attribute his ADHD to a increased sense of the world due to being a demi-god instead of the stigma it has in today's society. The story moves along quickly and there was never a point at which it slowed down or got too detail intensive. I wouldn't have minded a few more lessons in Greek mythology but that is the teacher in me. It will be fun to pick up the next installment and see what lies in store for Percy in the coming year. I am also very curious about the movie now, I think this book could be done in movie format very well but I will reserve judgment until I see it. Overall I recommend this book for boys or girls ages 9-12.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
"This is a book about a teacher all ready for school. And also the students who rush through the door and drop sacks of lunches that smash! on the floor. Not to mention the snake that escaped, the cupcakes that flew, the bad bee that buzzed, the fountain that clogged, the kid who got sick, and-Eek! There's the hamster that spins in a wheel!" From the first line you know this is going to be a crazy day at school. From the first few lines the craziness and chaos continue to build and be repeated on each page until then end when the school day is finally over.
This book makes me chuckle. I remember days that felt like that while teaching, nothing could go right and everything that could go wrong did. The students are not being naughty they are just a bit excited and clumsy and that is all you need. The story repeats certain lines on every page you get the feeling of how long this day is going to be for the 'teacher that is all ready for school'. I think kids will get a big kick out of all the things that go wrong throughout the day. As the words repeat so do some of the illustrations so be on the look out for that snake, the hamster, a bad bee, and some ants. The illustrations look like they were drawn very quickly with lines that do not connect or overlap. This adds to the haggard feeling the teacher has as she goes through the day. The book is filled with bright colors which can help you find the items that are repeated. The repetition in words and images helps young readers to anticipate what is coming next as you are reading and is a good tool for when they are learning how to read. Overall I would recommend for children ages 3-6.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Horace the Lion is waiting for his friend Sylvester the Snake to come over for tea and crackers, Sylvester is late again. When Horace complains Sylvester says it is unfair that he should always have to go to Horace's house since snakes have been around for so much longer than lions. Then the boasting begins. Each friend tries to outdo the other one. They do not listen to each other they both just want to be right and prove that their species is the best. They try to decide once and for all with a race. As they are running through the tall grass they fall into a deep trap. Horace and Sylvester are both scared about what will happen to them if they cannot get out. Then Sylvester has an idea and with lion's strength they are able to get out of the pit. After that Horace and Sylvester do not boast anymore and appreciate each other, they also meet for tea half way between Horace's house and Sylvester's house.
I found this book online, rather than my usual trip to the library and I am excited about how many more free children's eBooks there are online now. The title of the books links to the International Children's Digital Library. There you can find many books from around the world. I like that there are a lot of very old books that you can read, to me a version of Cinderella from 1853 is amazing. However, the pages are often small and you need to use their tool to magnify the text to really enjoy reading the book. Another plus to this site is that there are books from all around the world, so if you live in a bilingual home or are just trying to teach your children about other cultures you can read a book from just about anywhere in many different languages.
The cover of the book links to Make America Reads Fun. This site you have to download a .pdf of the book but I feel that the reading experience is a bit better because the image is larger. Also on that site are activities associated with their books so if you child really liked one story in particular there is a long list of things to do associated with the story. Either site offers you free eBooks which I think is a great thing. I know that I don't always have time to run to the library to pick up some new books and although reading from a computer screen is not the same as reading from an actual book it is great for those days when you want to read something new but can't make it to the library or a bookstore.
The story itself was good and had a lot of lessons to teach. The obvious one is that bragging is not good and will only lead to trouble. The other lesson is that working together can help you accomplish your goals. Both those lessons are great for 4-5 year-olds because for some reason at that age they start trying to be the best in everything. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence but teaching kids that other people can be good at things or even better at some things then they are is an appropriate lesson. The illustrations have a cartoon feel to them with very round edges and some exaggerated facial expressions. They help to tell the story and offer some very funny images to go along with the text. I recommend for children ages 3-5.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
A retelling of Aesop's fable The Lion and the Mouse, this version also takes us back to the jungle. Told in rhyme and with more of a comic book layout then traditional picture book layout, we get to see a different side to this fable. Lion is the biggest and strongest animal in the jungle and he knows it. He says, "Listen up! Listen up! No ifs, maybes, ands, or buts. I am the king all over the land. I do what I like. I do what I can. In this place I make the laws because, because of my mighty paws." Yet, when he gets hurt with a thorn through his paw no one will stop and help him. Mouse comes along and offers to help as long as lion does not eat him. Mouse pulls out the thorn and they both go home. The next day though mouse starts to act much like lion did, trying to bully people into doing what he wants. The other animals just laugh at him and mouse gets more and more angry. Finally one day he tells lion that he needs his house and throne so the other animals will take him seriously. Lion leaves his home and goes to the plains to live. There he realizes that he was being a bully before mouse helped him and that bullies are really just scared to be themselves.
Interesting spin on a classic story. I enjoyed Morrison's take on the fable and adding in the new lesson about not being a bully. The rhyming is excellent and I think it is great that she and her son are writing books for children, their talent is extraordinary and kids will benefit from reading masterful rhymes. The illustrations are not what I would have chosen. They are every rough and almost messy looking. The characters do not have clean lines and you get the sense that it was not supposed to be perfect, just as the characters are not perfect. In addition the illustrations have a rounded comic feel to them that adds to the overall feeling that something is not quite right. I do like the comic book layout, it lends itself very well to the rhyming scheme and helps the reader follow the dialogue. The story is easy to follow and I think kids will have fun listening to the rhyming and even repeating the lion's first phrase or two by the end of the book. I recommend for kids ages 3-6.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
"Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
Monkey and me,
We went to see..."
A little girl and her toy monkey love to pretend. They act out what animal they are pretending to be while the text on the page say the above. When you turn the page we see what animal they are pretending to be. The little girl and her monkey have great imaginations.
Very simple yet very fun to read this story lets the imagination run a little wild. The illustrations are very simple with a lot of white space that lets the reader really study the drawings. Done in pencil with only a few colors the red in the girl's red shirt stands out. Because of the repetitive nature of the book it is great to start teaching children about rhyming and let them read along with you. At the end of the story the little girl and monkey fall asleep. I recommend this story to read before nap or bedtime.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Millions of years ago, after the dinosaurs, Dinotrux ruled the earth. Unlike the kind and helpful trucks we know today Dinotrux were mean, smelly, messy, and scary. Part truck and part dinosaur these trucks wreaked havoc on the cavemen and animals that lived in that time. From the nosy Craneosaurus to the super hungry Garnageadon to the impatient Dozeratops these dinotrux did whatever they wanted. What happened to the Dinotrux? How did they change into the trucks we know today? You will have to read and find out.
I saw this book and started to chuckle. It seemed to combine two things that little boys love, dinosaurs and trucks. The book does not disappoint, the dinotrux are very much part dinosaur and part truck. I think that most little boys will easily be able to identify which parts are which. Now I must warn you some of the dinotrux are very rude and have issues controlling their bodily functions, so if a little bit of toilet humor offends you avoid pages 14-15. Personally I know that little kids think toilet humor is funny although I don't want to indulge that too much one page spread of a little potty joke is fine with me. The illustrations are really great and the book would be lost without them. Gail does a great job of making the dinotrux easily recognizable for either the dinosaur or truck enthusiast. And while the dinotrux have claws and sharp teeth they are not scary but look more ferocious, but again in a way that will not give little ones nightmares. I did not think I was going to enjoy this book but I really did. It was a lot of fun to read and I think it is a fun book to share with little boys ages 3-5.
Click to watch the Book Trailer